On November 1, 1999, the Texada Land Corporation bought one-tenth of Salt Spring Island - 5,000 acres in the southwest part of the island, the largest undeveloped part of the Southern Gulf Islands.
Logging on private lands is unregulated. Within a week of their purchase, the Texada Land Corporation began logging at a rate of 3-5 acres a day. This is 15-20 times the sustainable rate of harvesting. The logging method: clear-cut.
If they continue to log at the current scale and speed, by the end of this year more than 1,000 acres of forest the equivalent of 500 soccer fields will have vanished. Much of the logging is practiced at a manner that would be unacceptable under the BC Forest Practices Code, and Texada Logging even violated it's own "Code of Principles".
Wildlife habitat, future parklands, potential community forests and farmland, and the tourism Salt Spring's economy depends on are all at risk.
Our local government, the Islands Trust, though required by law to "Preserve and Protect" the Gulf Islands, has no jurisdiction over these lands, that are designated Forest Land Reserve. Thus it is powerless to carry out its mandate, and halt this destruction.
Ninety percent of the land currently owned by Texada contains rare, sensitive, or endangered ecosystems. The largest Garry oak woodland in Canada is part of these lands. So is the largest expanse of contiguous Douglas-fir forest left in the Southern Gulf Islands.
This diverse environment includes rocky arbutus bluffs and lush red cedar wetlands; salmon streams and miles of undeveloped shoreline. Sansum Narrows is the last wilderness waterway in the southern Gulf Islands. The Burgoyne Bay estuary provides important fish and waterbird habitat.
This land is also home to rare and endangered species. River otters and mink, long-toed salamanders and red-legged frogs, peregrine falcons and great horned owls, phantom orchids and the rare dusky-wing butterfly can all be found here. Porpoise and orca swim in Burgoyne Bay.
And our governments agree that this area of Salt Spring is a special place. Mount Maxwell Provincial Park was created back in 1938. Two ecological reserves were created in the area in the 1980s by the provincial ministry of the environment. In 1999, southwest Salt Spring was identified as a priority area for park acquisition as part of the Capital Regional District Parks Master Plan of regional parks and trails.
A healthy environment goes hand in hand with a healthy economy. As well as preserving endangered ecosystems, protecting the Texada lands means community control of community resources.
We are raising money to buy and rescue the more sensitive areas of this land as quickly as we can.
Under community control, these lands would be a mixture of public parks and privately-owned land under conservation covenants. They would include sustainable community forests where ecoforestry is practiced, and farm trusts to provide secure, affordable land for organic farmers.
We've formed cost-sharing partnerships with regional, provincial, and federal agencies. Groups like the Land Conservancy of BC, CRD Parks, the Salt Spring Island Conservancy, and the Habitat Acquisition Trust are pitching in. The entire community is rallying.